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Study Of Florida COVID-19 Deaths, Solar Power in the Sunshine State, PPE Litter in Boca Raton

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AP

Florida has more than 33,000 deaths connected to COVID-19 — but a new report shows that it could be much more. Why is the Sunshine State so behind on solar energy? And a Boca Raton councilman is jogging the entire city to clean up trash.

On this Wednesday, March 31, episode of Sundial:

COVID-19 Deaths Study

Gov. Ron DeSantis has vehemently defended his decisions to keep Florida open — arguing the state’s death rate per capita is not above the nationwide trend.

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But a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health estimates that COVID-19 deaths in Florida may be undercounted by the thousands.

“We have 5,000 deaths that are above the historical trend of death in Florida, even if you count for the officially reported number of COVID-19 deaths,” said Moosa Tatar, visiting professor with the Matheson Center for Health Care Studies and the department of population health sciences at the University of Utah. He is also one of the authors of the study.

“We had the historical trend of death in Florida and we predicted the number of total deaths in the absence of the pandemic. I added these numbers to the official report and we found a gap during this time period,” Tatar said.

COVID-19 Deaths Study
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Solar Power in the Sunshine State

Florida is called the Sunshine State for a reason — on average we get nearly 3,000 hours of sunshine each year. But when it comes to harnessing that sunshine for solar power, our state continues to lag behind places like California, North Carolina and Texas.

“The biggest reason [we’re not as solar as California] is because our cost of energy is pretty cheap compared to other states,” according to Daren Goldin, CEO of Goldin Solar — Florida’s largest solar installer.

He still believes that solar energy is viable in the state, especially as it becomes more financially beneficial for consumers.

And even though the state is not as solar as it could be, Heaven Campbell, the new South Florida coordinator for Solar United Neighbors, said “we are one of the fastest growing states in adding solar and adding solar jobs and it’s becoming an economic powerhouse in [Florida].”

The transition to solar won’t be easy — solar panels can be an expensive upfront cost for homeowners. And for those who live in condos or large apartment buildings, getting a homeowners association or condo board's approval is a whole separate challenge.

Jessica Lewis, policy coordinator for the Sierra Club Florida, also sees obstacles at the state level.

“Our leadership has not taken the lead on this. In fact, they often put policies that move us backwards on pursuing solar energy. That’s really the problem here, when our leaders don’t want us to have solar, they’re going to do everything in their power to keep us from transitioning to solar,” Lewis said.

There is a bill in the state Legislature, filed by Orlando Democratic Representative Anna Eskamani, which seeks to get the state on 100% renewable energy by the year 2040. Solar power would play a big role in that plan.

Solar Power in the Sunshine State
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PPE Litter in Boca Raton

A certain type of litter is becoming increasingly common: gloves, masks and all kinds of personal protective equipment. Now, Boca Raton is among the first in Florida to increase fines for littering PPE.

Boca Raton City Councilman Andy Thomson introduced the ordinance after noticing how much trash he saw on his daily run.

“A mask is totally different in nature because it's not just disrespectful, it's dangerous. You're putting the burden on someone else to have to clean up after your potential biohazard mess. Rather than just lecturing people about how it's bad to litter we let people know — if you're going to be doing this, you face a ticket that you're not going to enjoy having to pay,” Thomson said.

His mission is to run all of Boca’s city streets cleaning up trash along the way.

“So far, I've picked up 260 pounds of trash and 308 pieces of PPE. It got to the point where it was getting to be so many that I had to actually carry a separate bag for the PPE as we were picking it up. Nowadays, what I do is when I'm done I have a luggage scale that weighs how much exactly how much the trash is,” Thomson said.

If anyone in Boca Raton is caught littering masks, gloves or any PPE — and then walking away — they could recieve a $250 fine.

PPE Litter in Boca Raton
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Suria is Sundial's fall 2020 high school intern and a production assistant.